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Madness And Madness In Kate Chopin's The Awakening

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Madness is subjective, especially so in a time period where women’s emotions and thoughts were brushed off as unimportant. In The Awakening, Kate Chopin explores the inner life of a woman, lost in the patriarchal world and without anyone who truly understands her. Edna Pontellier’s supposed madness plays a large part in her characterization as a woman who has lost her way. However, Edna’s madness is not truly madness; it stems from a neglectful husband, crushing responsibility to society, and a sense of the complete isolation. Edna marries her husband, not out of love, but out of expectation of society and her family’s dislike of him. She is a young woman when they marry; she has never had a great romance. The closest thing to passion she…show more content…
Her memory of running away from her Father and church when she was a young girl living in Kentucky shows how desperate she is to be free. However, Edna gives up her hopes of freedom for marriage in the hopes that all will fall into place afterwards. Edna’s expectation that marriage and children is proven false when she still is not happy with her life afterwards. She feels that life is worthless and that there should be more to what she is. Edna is not like the other creole mothers; she holds an affection for her children, but it comes and goes. Occasionally she will hold them fiercely to her chest and yet others she will forget them. Her husband disapproves of her lack of maternal instinct and rebukes her when he discovers one of their children, Raoul, sick in his bed. Edna is not alarmed by it, but his harsh words make her burst into tears on the front porch, after he has fallen asleep. Mr. Pontellier does not care about his wife much as a person, only as something he owns. He views everything this way, new lace curtains, glassware, furniture. He is disappointed in his wife because, in his view, she does not function well as a mother. Edna’s lack of…show more content…
She cleans, entertains, and takes care of the children. Her diversion from her usual routine as a mother woman is started by her own inward questioning when she goes down to the beach with Adele Ratignolle and she asks her what she is thinking. Edna expresses a want to know herself, even though Adele and many others tell her that it is a useless wish. Edna has no one who truly understands her; she is isolated from society by a barrier of self knowledge that they deem madness. The only person who might understand is Robert, who she loves. But even he turns pale when Edna speaks derisively of his want for her husband to give her to him, saying that she can give herself to whomever she chooses. There is no one in the novel who has the same mindset as Edna. The isolation and pressure from society and her husband adds to her madness, cumulating in an eventual breakdown where she smashes a vase and throws off her wedding ring. The casting away of her ring symbolizes Edna throwing off the shackles of society and a loveless marriage to be her own person. She stamps on the ring, showing her distaste for her path in life and her choices in the past. Edna’s madness, and break down, show her deteriorating patience with her life and the mothering façade she wears day to day. Society views her as mad when she moves out of her husband’s house to live on her own. She breaks away from her life to set herself